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From Health Law Daily, June 18, 2013

HHS issues Proposed rule to standardize LTC ombudsman program

By Paul Clark

HHS’ Administration on Aging has issued a Proposed rule to standardize the state-based Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (Proposed rule, 78 FR 36449, June 18, 2013). The functions of the program have been in the law since 1992, as part of the Older Americans Act, but regulations have never been finalized. This Proposed rule replaces a previous Proposed rule that was published in 1994.

Background. State Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs serve as advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities and similar adult care facilities. These programs started as demonstration programs in 1972, and now exist in all 50 states and some territories. Nationally, in fiscal year (FY) 2011, there were nearly 1,200 full-time equivalent staff ombudsmen; more than 9,000 certified volunteer ombudsmen, and more than 3,300 other volunteers working with ombudsman offices.

According to HHS, there has been significant variation in the interpretation and implementation of the provisions of the Older Americans Act among states. This has resulted in residents of long-term care facilities receiving inconsistent services from ombudsman programs in some states compared to other states.

New proposals. The Proposed rule would standardized several definitions, such as “immediate family” and “Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.” The specific responsibilities of the ombudsman, as laid out in the Proposed rule, include: (1) to identify, investigate, and resolve complaints that are made by, or on behalf of, residents; (2) provide services to assist the residents in protecting the health, safety, welfare, and rights of the residents; (3) inform the residents about means of obtaining ombudsman services; (4) ensure that the residents have regular and timely access to the services provided through the office of the ombudsman and that residents receive timely responses to complaints from representatives of the office; (5) represent the interests of the residents before governmental agencies and seek administrative, legal, and other remedies to protect the health, safety, welfare, and rights of the residents; (6) provide administrative and technical assistance to government agencies to assist the agencies in participating in the program; (7) analyze, comment on, and monitor the development and implementation of federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and other governmental policies and actions relating to the health, safety, welfare, and rights of the long-term care residents; and (8) provide for training of representatives of the office of ombudsman.

Comments on the Proposed rule must be received by August 19, 2013.

MainStory: TopStory ProposedRules LTCHNews

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